When thinking of quintessential North Olmsted destinations, there is one landmark that immediately comes to mind: Great Northern Mall. Beginning with a simple grocery stand on a strawberry patch in 1958, the mall has since expanded into a regional shopping destination and community anchor serving generations of shoppers. With their latest placemaking effort, Great Northern Mall is aiming to transform the mall by re-energizing it with local creativity and neighborhood spirit.
Through a partnership with placemaking experts and branding consultants, Great Northern Mall plans to utilize their centers as a public space to support happy, healthy communities through wellbeing, arts and culture. Leading the charge for this re-imagining process is Team Better Block, a consulting firm that educates, equips, and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. “We want to leverage the utility of placemaking to engage the community in a meaningful way,” says firm Principal Andrew Howard. “Placemaking is about turning a city, town, or even a shopping center from a place you can’t wait to get through to one you never want to leave.”
Entitled “The Art of Living Locally,” Great Northern Mall Manager Kristin Cala hopes this new initiative will spark a new way of thinking about community spaces that may not appear as welcoming as their more open counterparts. “At Starwood Retail, we believe malls are really a center of commerce and of community. Rather than the old notion of a fortress mall, we are rethinking the mall concept and evolving it from the singular notion of shopping to a place of experiences where visitors and guests can spend time, enjoy friends and participate in in new community-based activities. ”
The community transformation kicked-off with a launch event on Wednesday, October 5th from 6-9PM in the Sears Wing of the mall, featuring hundreds of attendees. This pop-up event featured interactive workshops where attendees helped shape the event through their own creativity, a performing arts center, a health and fitness area, interactive cooking classes, and a farmer’s market with local vendors. The launch continued with an outdoor event on Saturday, October 8th where a temporary main street was unveiled, consisting of unique installations replicating a classic main street look and feel near the Rail restaurant.
Ultimately, Great Northern Mall and Team Better Block hope to use these temporary installations and events as a demonstration of what a reinvigorated mall experience will feel like in the long-term. Says Andrew, “We are planning on holding many more events throughout 2017 involving more festivals, pop-up markets, performances, fitness events, speakers, neighborhood socials and classes for kids and adults.”
Click here to be taken to the project’s webpage and register for upcoming classes, workshops, and other programming.